Brexit & IT Contracting


As the Prime Minister aims to trigger Article 50 by the end of March, a looming Brexit continues to send ripples of caution and uncertainty throughout many industries that are currently experiencing skill shortages in the UK.

Our Search IT, Digital and Change recruitment experts in Scotland have witnessed an increase in demand for a more flexible workforce within the sector. They predict that these trained and highly skilled contractors will continue to benefit from uncertainty and the imbalance between supply and demand in the market. We catch up with our two, newly promoted IT recruitment specialists, Ciaran Ahern, Associate Director for IT, Digital and Change and Marc Wilson, Divisional Manager for the IT contract team to get their thoughts on what the future may hold for contractor recruitment within the industry.

Brexit and IT contracting

Economic, political or legal uncertainty often drives business owners to exercise caution, particularly when it comes to hiring staff. Marc observes that many UK-based organisations view Brexit as a cloud of unknowns, and therefore may be less inclined to commit to hiring permanent staff or securing staff from the EU. “Although contractor daily rates are typically higher than what a permanent employee would earn, we have seen an increase in employers opting to recruit contractors to meet their critical project needs.”

A study by found that there was a 14 percent increase in job listings for contract positions within IT shortly after the EU referendum and Marc notes that the growth in demand has been continuous since then. The statistics, published by showed that out of the 11,966 new IT jobs advertised between June 24th and July 21st, 1 in 3 were on a temporary or contract basis. “If experience has taught me anything, it’s that uncertainty breeds an increase in demand for flexible workers,” Marc advises.

Skill shortages and the increase in competitive rates

It’s no secret that EU IT professionals make up a significant percentage of the UK’s tech workforce. “With immigration control being one of the top priorities on Theresa May’s negotiation agenda, one can only wonder what this will mean for an industry that already has a shortage of local talent,” Marc observes. Key findings from a recent international study on the UK’s IT workforce showed that a significant number of businesses were looking overseas for IT talent to supplement local skills and knowledge.

“It’s still early days,” says Ciaran, “but should free movement of labour be restricted there will certainly be a shortfall of key IT & Digital skills available in the market. This shortage of skills will most likely have the effect of driving up current day rates. As rates increase, this could potentially have the effect of making the UK less attractive to foreign investment in the long term.” On the flipside, Marc observes that should immigration be restricted it could result in UK- born talent returning home. However, it is unclear whether or not it would mitigate the shortage of critical skills in IT.

While Theresa May has stated that she aims to prioritise the rights of EU workers in the UK which may offer some reassurance to companies that largely rely on skilled migrants, the fact remains that much is yet to be seen regarding the terms of free movement once Brexit is finalised in negotiations. “In my view, this uncertainty is certainly a key driver behind the increased demand for a flexible IT workforce,” Ciaran observes. Data collected recently by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and Markit from their monthly Report on Jobs, reveals that limited company contractors and other temporary workers were in higher demand as a growing number of businesses look to short-term staff to fulfill their staffing needs.

Why skilled workers choose to be contractors

McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) found that 97 percent of contractors are much happier than their permanently employed counterparts, reporting superior satisfaction levels in numerous aspects of work, including level of income, ability to express creativity, and opportunities for development.

“There are many reasons why people choose to be contractors rather than permanent employees. Money is definitely a factor, but then again so is flexibility, and a dislike of internal politics.” Ciaran observes. He goes on to note that many candidates believe that contracting affords them more opportunities for professional development. “Contractors have the opportunity to test out other industry sectors to see if they can widen their experience, and as such, in some instances, gain more insight into different company cultures, processes, operations and structures. Operating in many different companies can definitely help to build up a varied CV, and enables contractors to establish an extensive network.”

Marc agrees, concluding, “Carrying out project work in different organisations and environments affords a contractor the opportunity to develop existing skills and to learn new ones – making them a valuable commodity for organisations looking to hire. A flexible contractor will be exposed to many different styles of working, and this enables them to develop as an individual, in more ways than just their core skill set.”


About our contributors

Ciaran Ahern


Ciaran is Associate Director for Search IT Digital and Change in Scotland. He firmly believes that in order to stand out from competitors, recruiters need to go the extra mile in building long-term relationships with their clients and candidates. “I am all about integrity, even if it means that we cannot always fulfill the needs of a client or candidate. This ultimately enables our stakeholders to trust in our ability to put them first, and this in turn fosters client-loyalty and candidate-retention.” he says.

Marc Wilson

Marc has recently been promoted to Divisional Manager for the Search IT Contracts team in Scotland. He has over 12 years of recruitment experience placing IT Digital & Change professionals within a wide range of industries and technologies. In managing the contracts division, his goal is to perpetuate a more efficient response rate by gaining immediate access to the contractor talent pool, and thus meet the demand of clients who may be reluctant to hire permanent staff.

Are you a professional IT Contractor?

Do you value the flexibility and variety that comes with being an independent IT contractor? At Search IT Digital & Change in Scotland, we recruit for a broad range of IT contractor roles and specialisms with something for everyone. Whether you work in infrastructure, test, development, project management or analysis, we have what could potentially be your next contracting opportunity. For specialised recruitment consultation, contact Marc Wilson on [email protected]. Alternatively, you can find our full list of vacancies here!

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